Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Little Light Relief in Woluwe

On the evening of Thursday 27 October, RSC Belgium was delighted to welcome Prof. David Phillips, the President of the RSC, to give his reknowned lecture "A little light relief". The venue for this lecture was the Lecture theatre Roi Baudouin B in the Rosalind Franklin building on the Universite Catholique Louvain (UCL) campus in Woluwe Saint Lambert, Brussels.

As well as being RSC president, David Phillips is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry and former Dean of Sciences at Imperial College London. He also has something of a reputation as a magician, which bacome apparent during his talk.

Prof. Phillips' theme was photomedicine, an area which currently encompasses the effects of light upon the skin, diagnostic uses of light, therapies using non-laser light and the use of lasers.

He described the production of Vitamin D, tanning, how skin ages, and the various types of skin cancers. Photoluminescence is used for immunoassay, the identification of antigens that may be precursors to disease. The technique is used in testing for pregnancy at early stages by seeking the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin, or testing for HIV.

Baby Bobbit
In terms of the therapeutic uses of light, Prof. Phillips described how light is used to treat ailments such as vitiligo, psoriasis, and jaundice.

The effect of photo luminescence to treat jaundice in young babies was demonstrated with aid of Prof. Phillips' long-time demonstration lecture side-kick: Bobbit - the glass baby (pictured above with RSC Belgium section Chairman Prof. Bob Crichton (left) and Prof. David Phillips (right)).

The main future for photomedicine lies in the development of photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is a minimally invasive procedure used in treating a range of infections and forms of cancer. A number of applications of PDT were described by Prof. Phillips.

Monday, 14 November 2011

RSC President presents Kekule landmark

RSC Belgium achieved another first on 28 October with the presentation of a RSC National Landmark plaque to Ghent University. The plaque commemorates the work of Prof. August Kekulé who worked at Ghent from 1858 to 1867.

The plaque was handed over at a ceremony in the University's magnificent Aula lecture theatre by RSC President Prof. David Phillips (pictured above centre). The landmark was recieved on behalf of the University by Prof. Luc Moens, vice rector of Ghent University (above left) and master of ceremonies was Prof. Pierre De Clercq of Ghent University (right).

During the ceremony an account of Kekulé's time at Ghent and its context in the history of chemistry was given by Dr. Brigitte Van Tiggelen, Chair of the Belgian National Centre for the History of Sciences.

This was followed by a contribution by Prof. Alexander Filippou from Bonn University on behalf of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), the presentation of the plaque itself and a closing presentation by Prof. Pierre De Clercq on the actual siting of Kekulé's laboratory itself.

Many artefacts and pieces laboratory furniture, including original molecular models, Kekulé's chalkboard and lab benches, are displayed at Ghent University's Museum of Science.

Kekulé at Ghent
August Kekulé (1829 - 1896) was one of Europe's most prominent chemists during the second half of the 19th century and his work forms one of the principe foundations of the theory of chemical structure. From 1858 - 1867 Kekulé was professor of chemistry at Ghent University and whilst there he experienced his famous 'benzene dream' from which he deduced the structure of benzene and effectively initiated the development of organic aromatic chemistry, its industrial application and the modern world of plastics and polymers.

The wording of the landmark (above) highlights Kekulé's achievements at Ghent - arguably the best work of his long career. The laboratory that he created in the university marked the establishment of chemical sciences and industry in Belgium and inspired future generations of Belgian chemists. The building that housed Kekulé's original laboratory remains part of the University in the centre of Ghent and will be the final site of the landmark.

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 is an appropriate time to honour Kekulé as it also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark text book on organic chemistry - 'Lehrbuch der Organische Chemie' - in 1861.

Ghent sites
A reception followed the ceremony. Earlier members of RSC Belgium and the speakers were given a guided tour of some sites in Ghent associated with Kekulé's time there.

Pictured above in front of the building where Kekulé's laboratory was believed to have been situated - possibly where the open window can be seen - are (above from left to right): Dr. Ian Carson, RSC Belgium Secretary; Prof. David Phillips, RSC President; Prof. Bob Crichton, RSC Belgium Chair; Prof. Alexander Filippou of Bonn University and GDCh; Prof. Pierre De Clercq of Ghent University; and Pauline Meakins of RSC HQ.